The gene that controls how much sleep a person needs to feel fully rested has been identified by researchers.

Back in 2009 the researchers led by Ying-Hui Fu, PhD, discovered that those with a mutation in their DEC2 gene averaged 6.25 hours sleep per night, compared to 8.06 hours in those without the mutation. 10 years on Fu and her team have now discovered another mutation, this time in the ADRB1 gene that allows members of a family with the mutation to sleep for only 4.5 hours per night and not feel tired.

The researchers latest breakthrough came after identifying a family with three consecutive generations of natural short sleepers, with no-one harbouring the DEC2 mutation. Using gene sequencing and the linkage analysis technique they were able to identify the ADRB1 mutation was also linked with natural short sleep.

The team then bred rats with the ADRB1 mutation, finding that the gene was vastly expressed in the dorsal pons, the region of the brain known to regulate sleep. These mice slept for 55 minutes less on average compared to regular mice, humans with the gene were found to sleep 2 hours less than average.

The results of this research could have a great impact on numerous illnesses and conditions, Fu describes how sleep deprivation is linked to long-term health, “You’re more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, metabolic problems and a weakened immune system.”